Among us were neither blasé people nor cynics, actor nor anarchists who took the Dada scandal seriously. – Marcel Janco, 1957
Janco, looking out at Zurich from his vantage point on Central Square 65 years after the birth of the movement, called out: ‘Dada is not just alive, Dada is thriving!’
Marcel Janco was born in Bucharest in 1895, and is regarded as one of Romania’s key avant-garde artists. In 1915, he studied architecture in Switzerland, and eventually joined Hugo Ball and Jean Arp to co-found Zurich’s Dada movement between 1916 and 1919. He directed stage and costume design at the Café Voltaire, creating and painting masks in the African style, which evoked unique choreography at Dada events.
Indeed, Janco’s masks were basic to Dada, creating what he termed was ‘our faith in a direct art, a magical, organic, and creative art, like that of primitives and of children.’ Hugo Ball wrote in his diaries, “What fascinates us about these masks is that they represent, not humanity, but characters and emotions that are larger than life. The paralysing horror which is the backcloth of our age is visible.”
Janco’s art style broached the figurative and the abstract; expressionism and cubism. His paintings conjured the dynamics of dance – breaking the surface and overlapping – as in physical movement. As such, his forms were simultaneously visible as 2- and 3-dimensional, emulating dancers on a stage.
The artist also was associated with the Paris Dada branch, where he participated in an international exhibition of abstract art. Janco was a co-founder of the avant-garde Romanian journal Contimporanul, with which he remained associated in the 1920’s, while contributing to a variety of other progressive art publications.
Upon returning from Paris to his native Bucharest in 1921, Janco generated the development of the avant-garde, and, from 1926, worked as an architect of modern buildings there. When Fascism invaded 1940 Romania, Janco emigrated with his family to Israel, where he founded and developed a thriving artist’s colony at En Hod.
Inspired by his international success, resident artists sought Janco’s counsel in their quest for universal recognition of Israeli art. They were rewarded in 1983 by his participation in the establishment of the Janco-Dada Museum in Ein Hod, the city in which Janco died one year later. The Museum remains an an active center for both documenting Jano’s legacy and exhibition opportunities for contemporary Israeli artists. – MEK